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ful dominion, and he entered the precincts of the Abbey in deep meditation on the possibility of the reappearance of the departed.
The view of the Abbey, ton, dismantled and falling fast into decay, presented an image of departed greatness admirably calculated to awaken recollections of the mutability and transient nature of all human possessions. Its fine Gothic windows and arches streaming with ivy, were only just perceptible through the dusk, as Edward reached the consecrated ground ; where, kneeling down at the tomb of his father, he remaihed for some time absorbed in the tender indulgence of sorrow. Hav. ing closed, however, his pious petitions for the soul of the deceased, he was rising from the hallowed mould, and about to retrace his pathway homewards, when a dim light glimmering from amidst the ruins, attracted his attention. Greatly astonished at a phenomenon so singular, and suddenly calling to remembrance the glastly appearance and fearful reports made by his servants, he stood for some moments riveted to the spot, with his eyes fixed on the light, which still continued to gleam steadily, though faintly, from the same quarter. Determined, however, to ascertain from what cause it proceeded, and almost ashamed of the childish apprehensions he had betrayed, he cautiously, and without making the least noise, approached the west entrance of the church ; here the light, however, appeared to issue from the choir, which being at a considerable distance, and toward the other end of the building, he glided along its exterior, and passing the refectory and chapter-house, re-entered the church by the south portal near the choir. With footsteps light as air he moved along the damp and mouldering pavement, whilst pale rays, gleaming from afar, faintly glanced on the shafts of some pillars seen in distant perspective down the aisle. Having now entered the choir, he could distinctly perceive the place from whence the light proceeded, and, on approaching still nearer, dimly distinguished a human form kneeling opposite to it. Not an accent, however, reached his ear, and, except the rustling noise occasioned by the flight of some night-birds along the remote parts of the tuin, a deep and awful silence prevailed.
The curiosity of Courtenay being now strongly excited, though mingled with some degree of apprehension and wonder, he determined to ascertain, if possible, who the stranger was, and from what motives he visited, at so unusual an hour, a place so solitary and deserted ; passing, therefore, noiseless along one of the side aisles, separated from the choir by a kind of elegant lattice-work, he at length stood parallel with the spot where the figure was situated, and had a perfect side-view of the object of his search. It appeared to be a middle-aged man, who was kneeling on a white marble slab, near the great altar, and before a small niche in the screen which divides the choir from the east end of the church ; in the niche were placed a lamp and a crucifix ; he had round him a coarse black garment bound with a leatherri girdle, but no covering on his head ; and as the light gleamed upon his features, Edward was shocked at the despair that seemed fixed in their expression : his hands were clasped together, his eyes turned towards heaven, and heavy and convulsive sighs at intervals escaped from his bosom, while the breeze of night, lifting at times his disordered hair, added peculiar wildness to a countenance which, though elegantly moulded, was of ghastly paleness, and had a sternness and severity in its aspect, and every now and then displayed such an acute sense of conscious guilt, as chill. ed the beholder, and almost suppressed the rising emotions of pity. Ed. ward, who had impatiently witnessed this extraordinary scene, was about to address the unhappy man, when groans, as from a spirit in torture, and which seemed to rend the very bosom from which they issued, prevented his intention, and he beheld the miserable stranger prostrate in agony on the marble. In a few minutes, however, he arose, and drawing from beneath his garment an unsheathed sword, beld it stretched in his hands toward heaven, whilst his countenance assumed still deeper marks of horror, and his eyes glared with the lightening of frenzy. At this instant, when, apprehensive for the event, Edward deemed it bighly necessary to interfere, and was stepping forward with that view, his purpose was suddenly arrested by the sound of distant music, which stealing along the remote parts of the Abbey, in notes that breathed a soothing and delicious harmony, seemed the work of enchantment, or to arise from the viewless harps of spirits of the blest. Over the agitated soul of the stranger it appeared to diffuse the balm of peace, his features became less rigid and stern, his eyes assumed a milder expression, he crossed his arms in meek submission on his bosom, and as the tones, now swelling with the richest melody of heaven, now tremulously dying away in accents of the most ravishing sweetness, approached still nearer, the tears started in his eyes, and coursing down his cheeks, bathed the deadly instrument yet gleaming in his grasp ; this however, with a heavy sigh, he now placed in the niche, and bowing gently forward, seemed to pray devoutly: the convulsions which had shaken his frame ceased ; tranquillity sat upon his brow, whilst, in strains that melted into holy rapture every harsh emotion, the same celestial music still passed along the air, and filled the compass of the Abbey.
Courtenay, whose every faculty had been nearly absorbed through the influence of this unseen minstrelsy, had yet witnessed, with sincere pleasure, the favourable change in the mind and countenance of the stranger, who still knelt before the lamp, by whose pale light he beheld a perfect resignation tranquillize those features which a few mi. nutes before had been distorted by the struggles of remorse ; for such had been the soothing and salutary effects of harmony in allaying the perturbations of a wounded and self-accusing spirit, that hope now cheered the bosom so recently the mansion of despair.
Whilst Edward, in sacred regard to the noblest feelings of humanity, forbore to interrupt the progress of emotions so friendly to virtue and contrition, the music, which had gradually, and with many a dying close, breathed fainter and fainter on the ear, now, in tones that whispered peace and mercy, and which sounded sweet as the accents of departed saints, melted into air, and deep silence again pervaded the Abbey. This, however, continued not long, for in a few moments was heard the echo of light footsteps, and presently Courtenay, by the glimmering of the lamp, indistinctly beheld some object which, gliding rapidly up the choir, moved toward the spot where the stranger was yet kneeling. His astonishment was increased when, on its approach
ing nearer, he could perceive the form of a young and elegant woman. She was clothed perfectly in white, except where the vest was bound by a black zone, and over her shoulders flowed negligently a profu. sion of light brown hair. A smile of the most winning sweetness played upon her features, though the dewy lustre of her eye, and the cears that lingered on her cheek, revealed the struggles of the heart. The stranger, who had risen at her approach, embraced her with the most affectionate emotion; they were both silent, however, and both now kneeling on the marble slab, employed some time in prayer. Nothing ever appeared to Courtenay more interesting than the countenance of this beautiful young woman, thus lighted up by all the sensibility of acute feeling ; her eyes bathed in tears, and lifted toward heaven, beamed forth an expression truly angelic, whilst the exquisite delicacy of her complexion and features, over which the pensive graces had dif. fused their most fascinating charms, together with the simplicity and energy of her devotion, as with clasped hands and trembling lips she implored the assistance of the Divine Spirit, formed a picture worthy of the canvass of Raphael.
Edward now saw before him the cause of those rumours and fears which had been circulated with so much industry in the neighbourhood ; for since the appearance of this amiable young woman, he had been perfectly convinced that the music to which he had lately listened with so much rapture, had its origin with her. In a still night, these sounds might be heard to some distance, and, together with the glimmering of the light, would occasion no small alarm to the peasant who should happen at that time to be passing near the Abbey, and whose apprehensions thus excited, might easily create some imaginary being, the offspring of ignorance and terror ; or perhaps some pilgrim, more daring than the rest, had penetrated the interior of the ruir, and had probably beheld one of the very striking figures now present to his eyes. This, without further inquiry, he had deemned, what indeed would, at first, be the surmise of any spectator, some vision of another world, and had thus strengthened the superstition of the country, and protected the seclusion of the strangers.
As these reflections were passing through his mind, the interesting objects which had given them birth had risen from their kneeling posture, and after interchanging looks of mingled gratitude and delight, were arm in 'arm retiring from the sacred marble, when Edward, whose eagerness to discover the motives of the elder stranger's conduct had been greatly augmented since the appearance of his fair companion, determined, if possible, to trace them to the place of their abode. Entering the choir, therefore, by one of the lateral doors, he followed them with slow and silent footsteps, preserving such a distance as he thought might prevent the lamp from revealing his person. He had pursued them in this manner unobserved through the choir, but upon their suddenly turning at an acute angle to enter the cloisters, the light streaming faintly on his figure discovered him to the younger stran. ger, who, uttering a loud shriek, leaned trembling on the arm of her friend.
Courtenay now immediately rushing forward, endeavoured to allay
their apprehensions, by informing them of his name and place of residence, and the motives which had, at this time of night, led him to visit the Abbey : he told them that, filial piety having drawn him to the tomb of his father, he had very unexpectedly perceived a light in the interior of the building, which, strongly exciting his curiosity, and corroborating the reports of the country, he had endeavoured to ascertain its cause, and in so doing had discovered the attitude and employ. ment of the elder stranger, who, together with his fair attendant, rather increasing than mitigating his astonishment, he had attempted, by following them at a distance, to ascertain their abode, it being his intention, at some future period, to solicit an explanation of what he had now witnessed.
Whilst Edward was yet speaking, a ghastly paleness overspread the countenance of the elder stranger; it was momentary, however : for soon resuming his tranquillity, he addressed Courtenay in a low but firm tone of voice. " I am sorry, sir,” said he, “ to have occasioned, by my partial residence here, so much apprehension among the inhabitants of your village ; but as I have reasons for wishing concealment, at least for a time, I have thought it necessary, though acquainted with their fears, not to undeceive them. But with you I know already I can have no motives for disguise ; for though, from great change of feature, brought on by deep sorrow and great change of apparel, I have hitherto escaped your recognition, you will find by.and-by that we were formerly better acquainted. In the mean time I will conduct you to the spot we inhabit, where, should you wish for an explanation of the extraordinary scenes you have been a spectator of this night, the recital, though it will cost me many struggles, shall be given you ; and I do this, strange as it may now sound to you, actuated by the recollection of past friendship.” Having said thus, he and his beautiful partner, who had listened with alınost as much surprise as Edward to an address so unexpected, moved slowly on, and Courtenay, occupied in fruitless conjecture, followed in silence.
They passed along a large portion of the cloisters, whose perspective, as seen by the dreary light of the lamp, had a singularly awful effect, and then ascending some steps, entered what is termed the Dormitory, and which was carried over this part of the Abbey to a considerable distance. Here, in two small chambers, where the roof remained sufficiently entire, were a couple of beds, and a small quantity of neat furniture, and here the stranger pausing, invited Edward to enter. “ These rooms,” observed he, “are my occasional habitation for at least twice a-week during the night: but before I commence the melancholy narrative of my crimes and sufferings, I will endeavour to recall your recollection to your companion in arms upon the continent; for this purpose I will retire for a few minutes, and put on the dress I usually come hither in, the habit you now see upon me being merely assumed after reaching this place, as best suited to the situation of my mind, to the penitence and humiliation that await me here.” His tone of speak. ing, as he thus addressed Courtenay, was perceivably altered, being much more open and full than before, and brought to Edward's ear a voice he had been accustomed to, though he could not at the mo
ment appropriate it to any individual of his acquaintance. During his absence, his amiable companion, who had not perfectly recovered from che alarm into which she had been thrown by Courtenay's intrusion, sat silent and reserved, until Edward, observing some manuscriptmusic in the room, ventured to inquire if the exquisite performance he had listened to with so much delight in the Abbey had not originated with her. A deep sigh at this question escaped her bosom, and her eyes filled with tears, whilst in tremulous accents she replied, that owing to the great relief and support her brother experienced from music, she always accompanied him to this place, and that it was a source of the purest happiness to her to be thus able, through the medium of her harp and voice, to alleviate and soothe his sorrows. For this purpose the instrument was left at the Abbey, and was placed in that part of the ruin where its tones were best heard, and produced the most pleasing effect. At this instant the door opening, the stranger entered clothed in a mourning military undress, and bearing a taper in his hand; he placed himself, the light gleaming steadily on his countenance, opposite Courtenay, who involuntarily started at his appearance. “ Do you not remember," be exclaimed, « the officer who was wounded by your side at the battle of Zutphen ?” “ My God !” cried Edward, “ Can it be Clifford ?” “ The same, my friend, the same," he replied ; “ though affliction has anticipated on his features the characters of age. You behold, Courtenay, the most unfortunate, the most miserable of men; but let me not pain my sweet Caroline by the recital of facts which have already wounded almost to dissolution her tender heart,--we will walk, my friend, into the Abbey ; its awful gloom will better suit the dreadful tale I have to unfold.”
Saying this, and promising his sister to return in a few minutes, they descended into the cloisters, and from thence through the choir into the body of the church.
The tranquillity of the night, and the light and refreshing breeze that yet lingered amid the ruin; and swept through its long withdrawing aisles, were unavailing to mitigate the agitation of Clifford, as with trembling footsteps he passed along the shoir. “ O, my friend,” he exclaimed, “ the spirits of those I have injured, hover near us! Beneath that marble slab, my Courtenay, on which you saw me kneel with so much horror and remorse, repose the relics of a beloved wife, of the most amiable of her sex, and who owes her death (God of mercy register not the deed !) to the wild suggestions of my jealous frenzy." Whilst thus speaking, they hurried rapidly forwards toward the western part of the Abbey; and here Clifford, resuming more composure, proceeded in his narrative. “ You may probably recollect about a twelvemonth ago, my obtaining leave of the Earl of Leicester to visit England ; I came, my friend, upon a fatal errand. I had learnt, through the medium of an officious relation, that my wife, my beloved Matilda, of whose affection and accomplishments you have frequently heard me speak with rapture, had attached herself to a young man who had visited in the neighbourhood of my estate at C-n, but that she had lately removed for the summer months to a small house and farm I possess within a mile or two of this Abbey, and that here likewise she continued to re